This Is My Dollhouse: Giselle Potter

Book: This Is My Dollhouse
Author: Giselle Potter
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

ThisIsMyDollhouseMy daughter brought This Is My Dollhouse by Giselle Potter home from the library, and we both enjoyed it very much. It's about a girl who has made her own dollhouse out of a cardboard box. She's made most of the furniture and other items, too. There's a block with burners drawn on it to make a stove, a couch made from a green and yellow kitchen sponge, etc. The girl plays with the cobbled-together dollhouse family every day, making them foods like noodles from cut pieces of yellow string, and singing them to sleep.

Her friend, Sophie, in contrast, has a "perfect" dollhouse, with plastic people and plastic food. Acceptable play with Sophie's dollhouse is dictated by the available, pre-made accessories. No creativity is allowed. When Sophie comes over to play, the narrator worries about the potential rejection of her home-made dollhouse. Instead, however, Sophie is charmed, and the two girls take the dollhouse family on a delightful vacation. 

This Is My Dollhouse is a celebration of creativity and imagination. It feeds the child reader's fascination with making things, and with little things. My own daughter was inspired to make a cup of "popcorn" (tiny balls of rolled-up toilet paper), like the one in the book. I'm rather surprised that she has yet to build her own dollhouse, though she has been asking to make some dioramas out of old shoeboxes. 

Potter's text is straightforward, written in the first person, and demonstrates occasional flashes of humor. Like this:

"I made a TV by cutting a hole in a little silver box and gluing a picture inside. I can change the picture whenever I want.

The rug is a very small piece of carpet I cut off the one in my room. (So far, no one has noticed.)" 

That last aside made me give a little snort of laughter. Here's one more snippet:

"Mommy makes them fried eggs (circles cut from white paper, with yellow colored centers),

and then the twins take the elevator up, up, up and 
swim in the rooftop pool in their bikinis."

Potter's illustrations fill in more of the details, such as the method of making the popcorn, the girl's choice to use a shoe as an airplane, etc. Her distinctive illustration style, with its old-fashioned feel and sometimes skewed perspectives, is a perfect fit for this story. The expressions of the two girls, when bored at Sophie's house, are priceless, as is the narrator's look of quiet satisfaction on the book's final page. 

This Is My Dollhouse would be a great choice for any child who enjoys making things. It belongs in libraries everywhere, particularly those serving early elementary school children. It would make a wonderful birthday or holiday gift, especially if accompanied by a large cardboard box. Highly recommended. 

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade (@RandomHouseKids
Publication Date: May 10, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Literacy Milestone: Changing the End of A Book

LiteracyMilestoneAI usually read a few picture books to my daughter while she eats breakfast (I eat my own breakfast very early). The other day we read a book called Stop Snoring Bernard, by Zachariah Ohora. I don't know if I had read this to my daughter before, definitely not recently, but I had reviewed it back in 2011. Here's what I said in my review (note especially the second paragraph):

StopSnoringBernardStop Snoring, Bernard!, as you might guess from the cover and title, is a picture book about an otter named Bernard. Bernard's only problem, in an otherwise idyllic zoo life, is that he snores. Loudly. When fellow otter Grumpy Giles complains, Bernard searches the zoo for other places to sleep. But not only are the other habitats less than congenial for the young otter, the other animals aren't so thrilled with him either. He continually hears: "Stop snoring, Bernard!".

I personally found the resolution of this book, in which the other otters miss Bernard and want him back, snoring and all, a bit unsatisfying. Bernard doesn't really DO anything that fixes the problem - it basically resolves itself. But young children will probably find the ultimate message, about being accepted for who you are, reassuring.

I didn't remember this when I was reading the book to my daughter. And I didn't really comment to her on the ending one way or another. I was trying to hustle her along to get ready for school. But she caught my attention by remarking that a better ending of the book would have had the character Grumpy Giles start snoring in the final scene. I'm not sure that this would have resolved my own criticism of the ending, but I do think that it would have been funnier. 

What I told her was that she can write her own books in the future, and end them whatever way she likes. I think that revising the ending of other people's books is a natural first step to that. [Kind of like authors who start out writing fan fiction, I guess, but in picture book context.]

Do your kids suggest tweaks to the end of books? 

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: September 16: More #Cybils News, Mathical Awards, #DiverseBooks + #Joy

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookLists, #DiverseBooks, #STEM, asperger's syndrome, book awards, Growing Bookworms, math, play, publishing, Raising Readers, read aloud, Rick Riordan, teaching, the Cybils Awards, and World Book Day.

Awards

SecretCodersPress Release Fun @FuseEight | Mathical Book Prize Now Accepting Submissions for 2016 http://ow.ly/dQAW3044dfp  #kidlit encouraging #math :-)

I find there are too many #kidlit awards to cover. Luckily @CynLeitichSmith has this Summer Awards Roundup http://ow.ly/IKv9304dgMN 

New Geisel Award Infographic by @100scopenotes http://ow.ly/ztiO3044doH  #EarlyReaders #DrSeuss @The_Pigeon #kidlit

Book Lists

WaitingForBiblioburro13 #PictureBooks That Celebrate Hispanic Heritage | Wesley Salazar @ReadBrightly  http://ow.ly/G633304dh65  via @literacious #DiverseBooks

Best #ReadAloud Books for 4th Grade, a @momandkiddo #BookList http://ow.ly/qlZd3048TQk  @lspark @kaaauthor @wenmass + more

Understanding Asperger’s Syndrome, w/ #BookList + personal reflections from teacher + mom Claire Noland http://ow.ly/DiNl3048Teo  

The Failed Presidential Campaigns of Children’s Book Characters — a #bookList from @100scopenotes  http://ow.ly/FZfU304fTjR 

Cybils

Applications for 2016 #Cybils Judges Are Now Closed. Thank you to those who applied. Panelists to be announced 9/21 http://ow.ly/607j304fUUC 

New #Cybils blog post: Meet the 2016 Organizers: Stephanie Charlfour, Chair of new #Audiobooks category | @scharle4 http://ow.ly/2r5b304bE2z 

New #Cybils blog post: Meet the 2016 Organizers: Jennie Rothschild, Middle Grade and #YA #NonFiction @kidsilkhaze http://ow.ly/cnB1304byig 

Cybils-Logo-2016-Round-LgNew on the #Cybils blog: Meet the 2016 Organizers: Melissa Wiley, #YA Fiction Chair | @melissawiley http://ow.ly/Rk3e304by5A 

On the #Cybils blog: Meet the 2016 Organizers: Karen Yingling, Middle Grade Fiction Chair @MsYingling  http://ow.ly/e7ll3049dEn  #kidlit

On the #Cybils blog: Meet the 2016 Organizers: Charlotte Taylor, Elem + MG Speculative Fiction Chair http://ow.ly/Pedy3048XkX  @charlotteslib

On the #Cybils blog: Meet the 2016 Organizers: Jone MacCulloch, #Poetry Chair http://ow.ly/Romo3048X2I  @JoneMac53

Blog Post: Meet the 2016 #Cybils Organizers: Jennifer Wharton, Elementary/Juvenile #NonFiction Chair http://ow.ly/GyAx3044JYX  #kidlit

Blog Post: Meet the 2016 #Cybils Organizers: Liz Jones, #GraphicNovels Chair  http://ow.ly/tz8h3044rut  @lizjonesbooks

Blog post: Meet the 2016 #Cybils Organizers: Jodie Rodriguez, #EasyReaders /Early Chapter Book Chair http://ow.ly/c81Q3044eNV  @growingbbb

Diversity + Gender

TwelveSummer Girls & Women in Children's-YA Lit Roundup by @CynLeitichSmith  http://ow.ly/Jtii3048RWI  #kidlit #YA #gender

The Uncomfortable Truth About #Diversity + Children's Books @DashkaSlater @MotherJones  http://ow.ly/B8mP304do4o 

Events + Programs

World Book Day 2017 targets giving away 1 million books to UK children | @GuardianBooks http://ow.ly/fwtU304bzKV  #literacy #WorldBookDay

Cool: @FirstBook + @NEAFoundation to Bring Thousands of #DiverseBooks, Resources for Children in Need http://ow.ly/52iO3044dEK  via @tashrow

National Ambassador Gene Leun Yang + @CBCBook Kick Off #ReadingWithoutWalls Challenge for kids http://ow.ly/l7jy304fSoB  #DiverseBooks #kidlit

Growing Bookworms

Gruffalo1/3 of UK parents admit skipping pages in bedtime stories because they are tired @MailOnline  http://ow.ly/xP4d3044e30  via @tashrow #Reading

Welcome, families! — @HornBook launches new Family #Reading Blog http://ow.ly/YqCT304dhmm  #RaisingReaders #kidlit

A few observations on The Subtle Genius of #FredRogers from @mrskatiefitz  http://ow.ly/oJk2304bwwU  #teaching #MisterRogers

Old but good: Helpful Tips for Parents on How Not To #Read to Your Children @MarjorieIngall @tabletmag https://t.co/S0olSSru59

8 Things Your Kid's #Teacher Wishes You'd Do at Home to support #Reading development http://ow.ly/oSMU304fRK9  @dcorneal @ReadBrightly

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

ThroneOfFireThis makes sense: @DisneyHyperion Announces New Rick Riordan Imprint for mythology-based #kidlit http://ow.ly/A6jK304bzqO  @camphalfblood

Makes You Appreciate Traditional Publishers: @gail_gauthier discusses issues she often sees in self-published books http://ow.ly/a5zq304bw7Y 

The most recent @HornBook podcast features the #Kidlitosphere's own @SevenImp http://ow.ly/oTHi3048WcF  #kidlit @TheNiblings4 @FuseEight

Parenting

Want to Raise Successful Kids? Here's what science says to do for #gifted kids @BillMurphyJr http://ow.ly/oTpM3048WNI  @CarrieMarshall1

Schools and Libraries

CrushschoolFood for thought: I Stopped Lecturing, Because I Want My #Students To Learn - @focus2achieve @BAMRadioNetwork https://t.co/PWTeRluRXL 

On how bringing joy back into the #classroom and into the #teaching profession would solve the teacher shortage https://t.co/TnMB8kcsLX

"The worst thief is he who steals the playtime of children." (W.D. Haywood quoted by @sxwiley  http://ow.ly/SGEj3048Reo  #play #JoyOfLearning

STEM

Research-Based Solutions to Address #Math Anxiety (w/ references) from @MIND_Research http://ow.ly/XRch304byFc  #STEM

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


Steg-O-Normous (Oodlethunks, Book 2): Adele Griffin and Mike Wu

Book: Steg-O-Normous (The Oodlethunks, Book 2)
Author: Adele Griffin
Illustrator: Mike Wu
Pages: 160
Age Range: 7-10

Steg-o-normousSteg-O-Normous is the second book the The Oodlethunks series of illustrated early chapter books, following Oona Finds an Egg. In this installment, Stacy, the stegosaurus that hatched in the previous book, is growing by leaps and bounds, causing challenges for Oona Oodlethunk and her family. When she learns that her parents are going to banish Stacy from the family cave (due to her advanced size), Oona bravely seeks the help of the local witch. But in the end, it is Stacy who saves herself, and various citizens of West Woggle. 

The premise of this series requires more than the usual suspension of belief, as Oona's Neanderthal family includes a mother who works in marketing, a father who is a gourmet chef (of sorts) and two kids who attend school (complete with field trips). Then there's the coexistence of dinosaurs (one, at least) and Neanderthals. There's also a running joke that someone in the family has invented the wheel, but they have yet to find anything useful to do with it. But the seven-year-old new readers who are The Oodlethunks' target audience will not care about any of that. Instead, they will enjoy the idea of living in caves, running around barefoot with clubs, dodging predators, and, of course, owning a pet dinosaur. 

Steg-O-Normous is full of kid-friendly details, including a sick Stacy being "sick on both ends" and the need to always bring something (like a cool rock) for potential barter. Or this:

""Good job, Stacy!" Bonk banged his Bonk-It club. "Zucchinis taste like snot, only without the good boogery flavor!" He leaned down and scratched Stacy behind her ear." (Page 2)

Bonk, Oona's little brother, is a fun character, irrepressible and loyal. There's a great illustration of him stomping gleefully in a bowl of "bone broth", as mom looks shocked and dad cringes. Bonk tags along and drives Oona crazy, as little brothers have surely done throughout time. 

Mike Wu's illustrations, included every couple of pages, a mix of full-page spreads and smaller drawings, bring Oona and her family (including Stacy) to life. There's kind of a Flintstones feel to them, with stone tables and animal pelt clothing, but labeled jars on the shelf of the witch's cave. The addition of pages showing things like the various foods fed to Stacy (each item carefully drawn and labeled) adds a bit of a notebook novel feel to Steg-O-Normous

The chapters in Steg-O-Normous are short, and the action is frequent, making this a nice bridge book for new readers ready to dabble in chapter books. The Oodlethunks series has a quirky, entertaining premise and a nice mix of action, family dynamics, and humor. This should be a welcome series for parents and librarians looking to engage new readers. I look forward to Oona and Bonk's future adventures. Recommended!

Publisher: Scholastic (@Scholastic
Publication Date: September 13, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Where, Oh Where, Is Rosie's Chick?: Pat Hutchins

Book: Where, Oh Where, Is Rosie's Chick?
Author: Pat Hutchins
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8
WhereIsRosiesChickWhere, Oh Where, Is Rosie's Chick? is the sequel to Rosie's Walk by Pat Hutchins. The first book was published back in 1971 and is still in print. My daughter's kindergarten class did an activity centered around Rosie's Walk last semester. When my daughter saw this book she was thrilled.

Both books feature a kind of slapstick humor in which a hapless chicken walks through a farm yard, blissfully unaware of being followed. In this new book, Rosie is looking for her just-hatched chick. She marches all through the farm, never realizing (until the end of the book) that her chick is actually behind her. Meanwhile, various predators attempt to snatch the chick, but are unsuccessful due to accidental interventions. For instance, when Rosie knocks some apples out of a wheelbarrow, she kicks one of them right into the mouth of a large fish that might have swallowed up the chick. These near-misses offer spot-on preschooler-friendly humor. 

The actual text of Where, Oh Where, Is Rosie's Chick? is straightforward and minimalist. Like this;

"She looks in the basket,
but here little baby chick isn't there."

(next page spread)

She looks behind the wheelbarrow,
but her little baby chick isn't there, either."

This repetitive text lends itself to reading by themselves for kids in kindergarten and first grade. When reading the book to a child, it's a bit difficult to get into a rhythm because one wants to stop and point out the various additional things that are going on in the pictures. ("Where is the chick?" "Who is that watching the chick?" "What do you think that animal will do?", and so on.)

The illustrations are gorgeous, filled with brightly colored patterns and cheerful farm trappings. It's like an Amish quilt of a picture book, if that makes any sense. Rosie's obliviousness and her chick's hapless but determined following with both appeal to young readers. Even the apparent predators turn out to be rather friendly, as the fox is revealed to be a parent, too. 

Parents who loved Rosie's Walk (currently available in paper and board book formats) as children will not want to miss out on the chance to share Where, Oh Where, Is Rosie's Chick? with their kids. These two books together would also make a nice addition to a kindergarten or preschool classroom library. Recommended and sure to please!

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (@SimonKids)
Publication Date: August 30, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Literacy Milestone: "I Love to Write"

LiteracyMilestoneAAt my daughter's back-to-school night last week, her first grade teacher, in speaking to the room full of parents, mentioned that one little girl in the class had made her day by saying that she loved to write. The teacher looked right at me with a little smile as she said this, adding that most kids at this age do not love writing. [Presumably because it's still quite difficult.] I was pretty sure that she was talking about my daughter, and confirmed this afterwards. I said something to the teacher like: "Well, we read to her a lot." My husband added that he had shown her a story that he wrote when he was in first grade, and that this had made a strong impression on her, errors and all.

I share this incident not so much to brag (though I am proud of this), but because THIS is the kind of payoff that you get as a parent from reading thousands of books to your child and encouraging your child's literacy whenever you can. You can end up with a child who is comfortable with the idea of writing, and who delights in the written word.

We still read aloud to my daughter MUCH more than she reads herself. Her spelling remains quite hit or miss, because she hears the words more than she sees them. But this has not so far slowed her down. She writes the words the way they sound to her, because she wants to get them down on paper. She is confident that someone will want to read them. The fact that she has a first grade teacher who values this makes me optimistic regarding the coming school year.

My daughter asked me if I would order special "rough draft paper" like they use in class. I was, needless to say, more than happy to comply. 

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: September 9: The #Cybils, #TalkLikeAPirateDay + Standing Desks

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookLists, #DiverseBooks, #PictureBooks, #ReadAloud, Anna Dewdney, Cybils Awards, growing bookworms, libraries, parenting, reading, schools, self-reliance, STEM, STEAM, and testing. 

Authors

So sad: Author Anna Dewdney didn’t want a funeral. She said read to a child instead. http://ow.ly/EhwT303ZDmT  @ElaheIzadi @washingtonpost

Book Lists

In the #Classroom: Ice-Breaker #ReadAlouds (for the First Week of School) from 4th grade #teacher @medinger https://t.co/4KxBigD0pP

#BackToSchool #PictureBook Round-Up from @RandomlyReading  http://ow.ly/hwE4303ZUtG  #kidlit #BookList

Best Classic #FairyTale #PictureBooks, a @momandkiddo #BookList https://t.co/66UqI6e1t3

A Tuesday Ten @TesseractViews | Speculative Middle Grade Characters: Ten Girls Every Reader Should Meet http://ow.ly/fJJQ303ZUeg  #kidlit

#School Stories (elementary to middle school) to Help Kids Thrive from @housefullbkwrms http://ow.ly/PYrb303WSz0  #kidlit

Cybils

Cybils-Logo-2016-Round-SmExciting news! The #Cybils organization is now officially a not-for-profit corporation http://ow.ly/pPB6303UJ7y  #kidlit #YA #blogging

Blog post: Meet the 2016 #Cybils Organizers: Anne Levy, Executive Director  http://ow.ly/vC8S303ZUTd  @zaftigbabe #kidlit #YA 

Blog post: Meet the 2016 #Cybil Organizers: Sheila Ruth, Publisher Liaison  http://ow.ly/KC7X303ZViN  @SheilaRuth #YA

Blog Post: Meet the #Cybils 2016 Organizers: Jen Robinson, #Literacy Evangelist + Social Media Guru  http://ow.ly/mb4K303ZYe9  @JensBookPage

New #Cybils Blog Post: Meet the 2016 Organizers: Sarah Stevenson, Co-Blog Editor  http://ow.ly/mhxl3041Kyn  @aquafortis #YA

#Cybils blog post: Meet the 2016 Organizers: Melissa Fox, Co-Blog Editor (+ this year's #KidLitCon host) http://ow.ly/S9yf3042b9s  @book_nut

Cybil Is Calling | @gail_gauthier suggests that #kidlit bloggers consider applying to judge for #cybils http://ow.ly/xKp6303ROgG 

#Cybils call for judges closes Sept 14 - here's how @melissawiley + @JoneMac53 are sharing w/ poems on Twitter http://ow.ly/bT4g3042aTy 

Diversity

A roundup of this Summer's Children's-YA Lit #Diversity Conversations from @CynLeitichSmith  http://ow.ly/B0rG303ZUoa  #kidlit #DiverseBooks

Events + Programs

Ten Pirate-y #PictureBooks for International #TalkLikeAPirateDay by @JenniFrencham @nerdybookclub  http://ow.ly/FP3T303ROpf  #BookList 

Tips for helping kids to love #reading, in Time for International #Literacy Day today from @Scholastic + @sljournal  http://ow.ly/PHxY3042aoN 

Growing Bookworms

The Benefits of Not Having TV, from a mom looking to #GrowBookworms http://ow.ly/mkJA303WSk0  @mrskatiefitz #reading

On previewing a book before #classroom #ReadAloud to set kids up for engagement by @frankisibberson  http://ow.ly/G3OS303WR8b 

#RaisingReaders: on using the power of books + #reading to shape future leaders http://ow.ly/PlCC303UW8f  #ReadersAreLeaders @Kateywrites

How to Create Empowered Readers in the #Classroom – A Beginning by teacher @pernilleripp | Start w/ #BookChoice https://t.co/SRwvCU7xzq

I would have loved this Breakfast with #Books program by #teacher @patrickontwit when I was a kid http://ow.ly/zUEr303UPbG  @nerdybookclub

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Food for thought: The Nuanced #PictureBook Biography (covering personal failings) w/ examples @fuseeight  http://ow.ly/ZRNz303WQGL 

Majority of Americans are still #reading print #books | @pewresearch  http://ow.ly/do3q303QCq5  #eBooks

3 Obvious Ways @twitter Promotes #Literacy (for adults + students), starting with "you read more" by @gcouros https://t.co/nyOmPqQNh8

Parenting

Should We Let Toddlers Play With Saws and Knives? We may be eliminating too many risks from childhood @AlisonGopnik https://t.co/gm8x1ch2X1

Your son will learn to problem-solve in your absence: school sign telling parents to keep their distance goes viral http://ow.ly/bC1J303UQ2F 

STEM

You Already Have these 40 Common Household Items to Do #STEAM Projects at Home w/ kids http://ow.ly/nQNA3041L0U  @momandkiddo #STEM

Nice! Girls learn app coding to navigate a way out of their Mumbai slum | @guardian  http://ow.ly/dYRz3041Mta  via @drdouggreen #STEM

Schools and Libraries

What if schools were not only about developing intelligence, but helping kids find theirs in various areas http://ow.ly/rlDE303ZTVl  @gcouros

Could standing desks in #school be the answer to how to keep kids fit? http://ow.ly/9P32303WOXy  @globalnews via @DavidGeurin #fitness

Amazing Children's #Libraries from around the world, w/ photos, by @savitakalhan @AwfullyBigBlog  http://ow.ly/KhXO303UPFD 

Do We Really Have Time for Digital Citizenship in the classroom? @DavidGeurin says we can't afford not to http://ow.ly/Q07g303RP5T 

What Doesn't Work: Classroom #Literacy Practices We Should Abandon per @nellkduke @edutopia http://ow.ly/gFDC303ROHO  via @drdouggreen

Testing

How can anyone take #StandardizedTest scores seriously when some kids TRY to do badly? @valeriestrauss @drdouggreen https://t.co/HUXjjtt5yR 

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


Two Skinnybones Books by Barbara Park

Books: Skinnybones and Almost Starring Skinnybones
Author: Barbara Park
Pages: 160 each
Age Range: 8-12

Random House recently reissued (with new covers and eBook editions) two middle grade novels about a twelve-year-old boy nicknamed Skinnybones. The Skinnybones books were originally published in the 1980s, but I found them to be nearly timeless, with only a very few anachronisms that modern-day kids might notice (like not being able to DVR a TV commercial, and it being unusual for one's home to be locked). I don't believe that I had ever read these as a kid - I would have been a bit old for them by the time they came out - but I thoroughly enjoyed reading them now. 

Skinnybones introduces sixth grader Alex Frankovitch. Alex is an undersized kid who learned back in kindergarten that he could have an outsized impact by being funny. Sometimes his humor works, and sometimes, well, not so much. But his humor turns out to not be much compensation for his near total lack of effectiveness at playing baseball. When a new kids in school turns out to be an ace Little League pitcher, the central rivalry of Skinnybones emerges. 

I love Alex's ironic, generally low-key parents. When he declares after a humiliation that he's never leaving his room again, they wait him out (though they conveniently do make some delicious-smelling fried chicken after a day or so). When his ego gets a little too large, they calmly bring him back to earth. Alex's relationship with his best friend, who never fails to laugh at Alex's misfortune, and mostly puts up with his garbage, is also enjoyable. 

But the reason to read Skinnybones is that Alex's voice is both dead-on perfect and laugh-out-loud funny. Like this:

"In the summer, a school principal spends his time composing lists of all the kids in the school who hate each other. Then he  makes sure they end up in the same class together." (Page 18)

and

"Every single year, I am always the smallest kids on the team. I mean it. For the first five years of my life, I thought I was a leprechaun. 

I remember when I was in kindergarten, our teacher asked us to cut out magazine pictures of what we thought we would be when we grew up.

Most of the boys in my class brought in pictures of baseball or football players. A few others brought in pictures of policemen. 

I brought in a picture of the Lucky Charms guy. I cut it off the front of the cereal box." (Page 27)

and

"Baseball caps are probably the greatest invention of all time. No matter what you look like, as soon as you put on a baseball cap you automatically look like a ballplayer. A real ballplayer, I mean." (Page 57)

The middle quote really did make me laugh out loud. The action n Skinnybones is a little over-the-top, but without skating into the territory of fantasy. I think that kids, especially those who play Little League, and fans of books like  The Terrible Two and The Terrible Two Get Worse will love Skinnybones.

In the sequel, Almost Starring Skinnybones, Alex is a bit full of himself due to having won a contest, and been to New York to film a television commercial as a prize. Despite the humiliations that follow, and the damage to his relationship with his best friend, Alex continues to seek out the limelight. But in the end, he grows up a tiny, plausible bit. Just enough that we leave him knowing that he will probably turn out ok.

Almost Starring Skinnybones takes place during Alex's seventh grade year, as he transitions to middle school. Although this means that there are new characters, and that Alex has different teachers for different subjects, the story remains solidly middle grade. Alex's nemesis in this installment is female, but there are no love interests or the like. There is a school play, however, and young thespians will particularly enjoy this one. 

Here's my favorite quote from this one:

"My mother just shook her head. I worry about my mother's head. She shakes it so much, one of these days it's going to get real loose, and she won't be able to hold it up anymore. It'll just roll around on her shoulders and become an embarrassment to the family." (Page 13)

But I do like this one, too:

"She screamed it so loud, our teacher, Mrs. Ballentine, stopped taking attendance and started glaring at me. Mrs. Ballentine has one of the deadliest glares in the business. There's a rumor going around that a few years ago she actually glared a hole in a kid's head." (Page 52)

If they were being originally published today, the Skinnybones books would most likely have pictures. They feel like literary antecedents of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, as well as Gary Paulsen's Liar, Liar series. As it is, they'll make great step-up books for kids weaned on Barbara Park's Junie B. Jones books who are ready for a slightly more challenging read. Bottom line: Skinnybones is hilarious. Recommended for readers 8 and up. 

Publisher:  Yearling Books (@RandomHouseKids)  
Publication Date: 1982 and 1988 originally, reissued with new covers 2016
Source of Book: Review copies from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Growing Bookworms Newsletter: September 7: Book Reviews, Made Up Titles, and Backwards Birthday Parties

JRBPlogo-smallToday, I will be sending out a new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter has refocused recently, and now contains content from my blog focused on growing joyful learners, including bookworms, mathematicians, and learners of all types. The newsletter is sent out every two to three weeks.

Newsletter Update:  In this issue I have five book reviews (picture book through middle grade), two posts with links that I shared recently on Twitter, and two more posts with more in-depth highlights from articles about the joy of learning. I do have a couple of literacy milestone/parenting posts that I am working on, so I should have more on that front for the next issue. I'm still adjusting to changes in our family's routine due to the start of the new school year, and my blogging time has been fairly limited. More soon, I hope... 

Reading Update: In the past two weeks I read/listened to two illustrated chapter books, one middle grade book, one young adult books, and two adult titles. I read:

BackwardsBirthdayPartyI'm currently  listening to The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney and still reading Small Data: The Tiny Clues that Uncover Huge Trends  (nonfiction) by Martin Lindstrom on my Kindle. The books my husband and I have been reading to our daughter in 2016 can be found here. Her most recent favorite title is The Backwards Birthday Party by Tom Chapin and John Forster (ill. Chuck Groenink). She does not, however, want a backwards birthday party herself, because the one in the book entails giving away your own things as birthday presents to your guests, instead of the other way around. Now me, I kind of like that idea. 

My daughter's latest reading-related quirk is that she's adding her own made-up titles to our monthly reading log (something we started last school year, and just kept up on our own). Her two invented titles this week were "mountain-climbers" and "king chrysalis 101" (with some degree of spelling help from me). Aren't you kind of curious about that second one? Perhaps she'll write the book one day. 

I'm continuing to share all of my longer reads, as well as highlights from my picture book reads with my daughter, via the #BookADay hashtag on Twitter. Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms. Wishing you all plenty of time for summer reading.

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


Sofia Martinez: My Family Adventure: Jacqueline Jules

Book: Sofia Martinez: My Family Adventure
Author: Jacqueline Jules
Illustrator: Kim Smith
Pages: 96
Age Range: 5-7

Sofia Martinez: My Family Adventure is a collection of three early chapter books about seven-year-old Sofia and her close-knit extended family. Sofia's adventures in this book (there are several others) include standing out on school picture day, making a piñata for her Abuela's birthday, and recapturing an escaped class mouse. I found the tales to be realistic, if occasionally predictable for the adult reader (of course the mouse was going to escape). I think that kids in the target age range will find Sofia's adventures to be both accessible and relatable.

But what makes Sofia Martinez: My Family Adventure stand out is the author's representation of a tight-knit Hispanic-American family. My Family Adventures is sprinkled throughout with Spanish words and phrases. These are shown in a muted red font, and are all included in a glossary at the end of the book. While I knew some of the words, and found others to be clear from context, I did find the glossary necessary in some cases. 

Sofia has a strong personality, as is evident from her jaunty cover image shown above. She is plausibly jealous of the attention received by her baby cousin, and desirous of attention herself. She is confident in her opinions ("No one is too old for a fun birthday party") and ready to take action where needed. But she knows when to ask for help, too. In short, Sofia is a character that I will be happy to have my six-year-old daughter spend time with. The fact that she'll also get a refresher on some Spanish words that she learned in preschool will be an added bonus. 

Recommended for home and especially for library use. Sofia is a great addition to the ranks of early readers. 

Publisher: Picture Window Books  
Publication Date: February 1, 2015
Source of Book: Personal copy (bought at KidLitCon 2015)

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Curse of the Boggin (The Library, Book 1): D.J. MacHale

Book: Curse of the Boggin (The Library, Book 1)
Author: D.J. MacHale
Pages: 256
Age Range: 8-12

CurseOfTheBogginCurse of the Boggin is the first book of a spooky new middle grade series by D.J. MacHale. MacHale previously wrote the Pendragon and SYLO series, both of which I enjoyed. With Curse of the Boggin, MacHale introduces a new world, promising a variety of other adventures set in the same world and featuring the same primary characters, but lacking a continuous narrative arc. Curse of the Boggin should be read first, however, as it introduces the world, and the characters. 

Curse of the Boggin is the first person story of Marcus, a boy who delights in being a nonconformist, and in standing up to bullies. Marcus has two friends named Annabella Lu and Theo McLean, and a somewhat fraught relationship with his adoptive parents. Marcus's life becomes more challenging when he starts to see things that apparently aren't there. This includes a vision of a man in a bathrobe, who Marcus learns from the newspaper is a recently deceased firefighter from New York City. Marcus sneaks off to the city, learns some unexpected truths about his own background, and acquires the key to a magical library. Danger and wonder follow, in a fast-paced plot that focuses on ghosts and unfinished stories (and an evil boggin).

I was hooked on Curse of the Boggin from the first page. Marcus is a likable character, strong-willed and imperfect but with good instincts. He has a breezy voice that keeps the book from being too scary for kids, even when scary things do happen. And they do - this is a great book for middle grade kids who delight in eerie dangers. 

Here's Marcus:

"I didn't have a lot of friends at Stony Brook Middle School. Okay, I had exactly two. Lu and Theo. I wasn't a group guy. The three of us didn't care about being on the "popular" track, which meant you had to wear the same clothes as everyone else and make fun of everyone who didn't conform. We did whatever we wanted because we didn't care what anybody else thought about us. It was total freedom." (Page 19)

I don't know if it can really be that easy in middle school, but I appreciate the sentiment. Here are Marcus, Lu and Theo:

"We were like three different pieces of a very odd puzzle. Between Theo, a black guy who looked as though he should be rubbing elbows at a yacht club; Lu, with her Asian roller-derby-girl look, black tights, plaid shirts, and bold makeup; and me, a white guy who wore the same jeans and T-shirts every day until they were so stiff, they could stand up in the corner, we looked like the cast of some kids' show trying to cover all its ethnic bases. It would be a grand slam if we had a Hispanic friend. Or maybe a Tongan." (Page 36)

And here's the key:

"This key fit into only one lock, but which one? It was definitely something from a long time ago, like the big old door of a castle or a giant pirate's chest. It didn't look as though it would fit anything that was made in this century." (Page 83)

There is a fair bit of illusion to Curse of the Boggin, and young readers will enjoy trying to figure out what is real and what isn't. They may come away from Curse of the Boggin with a fear of something scary bursting out from beneath their beds. But I think that they'll also come away looking forward to future books about The Library. Recommended for fans of supernatural stories and mysteries, and for anyone who appreciates books. Curse of the Boggin is a promising start to what I expect will be a long-running series. 

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers  (@RandomHouseKids)  
Publication Date: September 6, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: September 2: Schools, Screen Time, #KidLitCon + #Cybils

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include: #KidLitCon, beginning readers, celebrity picture books, diverse books, homework, recess, school, Screen Time, the Cybils Awards. video games, writing contest, Mrs. P Storytime, education and The Pigeon. 

Book Lists

TheWildRobotTop Ten Books to Build a Classroom Culture by Cindy Christiansen @nerdybookclub   #school #kidlit https://t.co/yQ6JCCP3Jy

Diverse #EasyReaders that All Kids Will Love, a @momandkiddo #BookList  http://ow.ly/saRH303HbXI  #DiverseBooks

Fall Books for Preschoolers, a @growingbbb  #BookList  http://ow.ly/D3D9303JVaF  #PictureBooks

Books that always work at storytime, chosen by children's librarians http://ow.ly/pM6x303LTfm  @lpbradley @Slate #kidlit #BookList

Review Round-Up: Books for Beginning Readers, August 2016 http://ow.ly/nXY6303Ozla  from @mrskatiefitz #EasyReaders #ChapterBooks

Every Kid Reads in Their Own Way: 7 Children’s Books About #Dyslexia @DeniseSchipani @ReadBrightly  http://ow.ly/OuKY303JcNf  #kidlit

A Tuesday Ten @TesseractViews | Books that showcase the Dark Side of middle grade fantasy  http://ow.ly/jfR1303LQN6  #kidlit #BookList

Cybils

Cybils-Logo-2016-Round-LgA Blogger's Must Have Tool for the 2016 #Cybils | Your library card (+ your application to be a judge) http://ow.ly/wHDj303H7TD  @readingtub

#PoetryFriday: The Late Edition with a #CYBILS Announcement from #Poetry Chair @JoneMac53   #kidlit https://t.co/VW7RKHqlU5

It's #Cybils Season! I suggest you consider applying to be a judge, preferably in my category, says Jennifer Wharton http://ow.ly/amXT303F1RY 

Why Bloggers Should Participate in #Cybils + #KidLitCon by @cybils blog editor + KLC16 organizer @book_nut https://t.co/CAOFPq205J

Events + Programs

Mrsp_contest_2016The theme of this year's Be-A-Famous-Writer Contest @MrsPstorytime is #LIBRARIES http://ow.ly/dTrd303CJer  Starts 9/1

The fab @MrsPstorytime is at All the Wonders talking w/ @MatthewWinner  about this year's BE A FAMOUS WRITER contest https://t.co/OHDisHzcJ1

This is cool. Now Arriving on the New York Subway: Free #E-Books, Timed for Your Commute - @nytimes  http://ow.ly/G9f4303JUcz  via @sljournal

September 13th would have been Roald Dahl's 100th birthday | A “Buzzwangling,” “Dahl-icious” Centennial @sljournal  http://ow.ly/Tv7J303JUCl 

Growing Bookworms

Great resource from @rebeccazdunn Learning How To Read: A #BeginningReader Booklist from wordless #PictureBooks up http://ow.ly/XOxp303Hbyh 

The importance of ReadingAloud to your children by @lester_laminack for @Scholastic http://ow.ly/Ay3f303Oz5F  #RaisingReaders

Kidlitosphere

KidLitCon2016LogoSquareGreat #kidlit blogging news: The 2016 #KidLitCon Program was just released http://ow.ly/84NN303CHvA  @charlotteslib @book_nut

Miscellaneous 

"Your perception IS your reality. We can choose to find the positive in negative events" @SeanAThom http://ow.ly/demp303LQni  @BAMRadioNetwork

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

The #PictureBook in 2016: Social Themes and Lessons as observed by @FuseEight http://ow.ly/wdqS303CKop  #MakingMistakes #GenderRoles + more

Critical review of children’s books by celebrities like Jay Leno, John Travolta, + Gloria Estefan @lbennett @Slate https://t.co/OgXf7WBrFW

BabysittersClubThis is awesome: As a Boy, I Was Obsessed With the Baby-Sitters Club Books. I Have No Regrets http://ow.ly/5DCt303Jfoo  @bennettmadison @Slate

This is truly gorgeous: Book lover? This magical destination is a must for your bucket list. http://ow.ly/lPAC303OPuc  @Upworthy

Screen Time

Are screens "digital heroin?" @DTWillingham says this analogy is false + a scare tactic (despite issues w/ screens) http://ow.ly/6lAu303Hd3g 

Positive link (correlation) between video games and academic performance, study suggests @guardian https://t.co/8ju8u5teMb

Playful Learning

Fun stuff: 5 Ways to Use Rocks in the #Classroom by @sxwiley http://ow.ly/3OuW303JeCp  | My daughter always has a bag of rocks around

#Playful Teaching: School Is Supposed To Be Fun @focus2achieve @BAMRadioNetwork http://ow.ly/C9Ai303LPGx  Adapting #PlayfulParenting to class

Schools and Libraries

My daughter would love this idea: Find the (stuffed) Pigeon! in the #library by@MrBenjiMartin http://ow.ly/pEwv303CLjj  @The_Pigeon

Homework: The Great Debate: A proposal for weekly instead of daily #homework by #teacher Cathy Collier http://ow.ly/f6zw303F2fq 

It just shouldn't be this hard: Local Florida Parents Calling for Elementary #Recess http://ow.ly/DKHr303CKYI  @JaxMomsBlog via @drdouggreen

LastStopMarketStreetWhat We Believe Matters Most When Selecting Books | @kegancunningham on new @sljournal blog: #Classroom Bookshelf  http://ow.ly/d9WB303JUlB 

7 Mantras to Start the School Year @ajjuliani | I like "Failure is an option here..." by @elonmusk  via @drdouggreen http://ow.ly/DEml303JeeH 

4 charts reveal what Americans think about the biggest #education fights, including school closures @ChalkbeatNY https://t.co/WvBVE5DPKK

Eye-opening: What Kids Wish Their #Teachers Knew by Donna De La Cruz  @nytimes http://ow.ly/7mH7303Mfvp  #IWishMyTeacherKnew #schools

It's about students' whole lives: How Clean Clothes Can Help Kids with Chronic Absences at #School | @MindShiftKQED https://t.co/ucOLrMmmJe

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook